Gov. M. Jodi Rell tapped the former head of the state’s homeland security agency, James M. “Skip” Thomas, to serve as acting commissioner of the Department of Public Safety for the remainder of her administration.

Thomas, 63, who retired from state service in 2009, replaces John A. Danaher III, who resigned from his post at public safety last month after being confirmed by the General Assembly as a Superior Court judge.

“Skip Thomas has impeccable credentials and has served with distinction as Commissioner of (homeland security) during its critical first years,” Rell said. “His integrity is respected by all and his 28 years as a police officer – including 14 years as chief – have given him tremendous insight into the opportunities and challenges that come with leadership of a large law enforcement agency. I cannot think of a better leader for the Department of Public Safety and I am grateful he is willing to take on this role.” The Connecticut state police are a division within the public safety department.

Thomas became the firs-ever commissioner of the state Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security in 2005. It was created when the legislature merged the Office of Emergency Management and the Division of Homeland Security and added new responsibilities to the joint agency.

Rell had called upon Thomas earlier this year, asking him in February to chair the second of two panels investigating the Kleen Energy power plant explosion in Middletown. Thomas will continue to lead that effort while also heading up public safety, the governor’s office said. The study panel was charged with taking the findings of an earlier group – chaired by retired U.S. District Judge Alan H. Nevas – and determining what steps should be taken to prevent such accidents in the future.

Rell is not seeking re-election, and all of her department and agency heads would be subject to possible replacement by the next governor, who would assume office in early January.

Thomas had been chief of police in Glastonbury from 1987 to 1998 and in Vernon from 1984 to 1987. He began his career as a police officer in Glastonbury in 1970, rising through the ranks to lieutenant by 1984.

A graduate of St. Louis University in 1969, Thomas received his master’s degree in criminal justice from the University of New Haven in 1974. He is also a graduate of the FBI National Academy, a certified medical rescue technician, a former president of the Connecticut Chiefs of Police Association and a retired member of the Police Association of Connecticut.

Keith has spent most of his 31 years as a reporter specializing in state government finances, analyzing such topics as income tax equity, waste in government and the complex funding systems behind Connecticut’s transportation and social services networks. He has been the state finances reporter at CT Mirror since it launched in 2010. Prior to joining CT Mirror Keith was State Capitol bureau chief for The Journal Inquirer of Manchester, a reporter for the Day of New London, and a former contributing writer to The New York Times. Keith is a graduate of and a former journalism instructor at the University of Connecticut.

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